by Jennie S. Bev
Indonesia's 2009 presidential election campaign promises to be exciting for Indonesians and the world. Unlike the two previous post-Soeharto elections, dominated by Baby Boomer candidates who eventually won, candidates from Generation X will actively participate this time around, including Rizal Mallarangeng and Fadjroel Rachman –to name two early birds.
Generation X consists of those born sometime between 1965 and 1982. While perhaps guilty of overgeneralizing, many social psychologists consider X the conscientious, hardworking and politically conscious generation, known for their skepticism toward government and lack of trust in leadership.
That Generation Xers experienced both the Cold War –with its constant threat of nuclear annihilation– and the onset of AIDS –the most fearsome disease of their time– might help explain these traits.
Born between 1980 and 1995, Generation Yers, by contrast, have lived in an era whose only major threats were –and continue to be– global warming, the environment and terrorism.
They are known for their tolerance, flamboyance and overconfidence bordering on narcissism, in addition to being, simultaneously, open-minded, ambitious, cynical, and anxious.
Tolerance and positive thinking were introduced to this generation from the start, while positive rewards and the rhetoric of self-empowerment have been used to motivate them during their school years and beyond.
With the Internet's flourishing, internationalism and multiculturalism have come naturally to Yers, as has acceptance of unconventional sexual orientations. We should note, however, that such profiles tend to occur in Western countries or those with some Western influence, such as Asian cities where cross-cultural pollination takes place and the Internet is easily accessed.
Their definitions aside, age cohorts should not be taken at face value, as not all cohort members fully exhibit such general qualities, including the many with "borderline" characteristics.
That said, Generation Yers have lived and breathed the "wired" world since their school days or before, unlike Generation Xers, who were not introduced to the Internet until adulthood.
Interestingly, American presidential candidates, both Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, have used the power of social networking platforms –such as Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook– and blogs during the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns. We also see such efforts among Indonesia's current Generation X presidential candidates.
More than ever before, electronic communication will significantly influence the course of an election, particularly where a reliable Internet connection is not an issue. While it might be too early to say how web-based Indonesia's presidential election campaign will be, Generation X and Y will certainly play major roles in the country's future –whether we like it or not.
It's important to keep in mind Generation Xers' likely world view, as it will directly influence their leadership style. According to journalist Simon Castles, as cited by Rebecca Huntley in The World According to Y, X was the first generation to recognize "the negative consequences of two decades of extraordinary economic and social change.” Xers also tend to see the world as a place where survival matters most, often relying on their parents for comfort and thus highly valuing the concept of family unity.
Generation Yers, on the other hand, are much more independent of family members. For advice, they can easily text message a divorced parent residing on the other side of the globe.
Yers' notion of "family unity" has shifted considerably, not only because they consider divorce acceptable, but because nothing can truly separate them from the people they love, whoever they are. We have technology to thank for that.
Generation Xers are also aware of gender equality, but may be influenced by their Baby Boomer parents, who likely consist of a working, bread-winning father and a stay-at-home mother. Xers' gender equality values are, therefore, likely to be quasi-equal, meaning Xers are aware of current equal partnership trends in marriage or other household partnerships, but long for the ideal household their parents had. Generation Yers, by contrast, are likely to be aware of and practice complete gender equality. Feminism is not an issue for them.
Understanding the profiles of these two influential generations should help us better understand the 2009 presidential candidates, their policies and their likely effect on generations to come.
The Jakarta Post, July 24, 2008